Captain Marvel (2018) - Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck - Film Review
It’s no surprise that Captain Marvel was released in cinemas on International Women’s Day, and the film almost overplays its thematic idea about women learning to not be defined or dictated to by men. This strong theme plays out in many of the plotlines running throughout Captain Marvel, but most interestingly in the dynamic between Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg and Brie Larsen’s Carol Danvers. Unfortunately, this theme isn’t the only one Captain Marvel grapples with.
At times the film risks feeling like a tried and tested re-tread of previous origin stories. The central characters learning that the true path to their power is in understanding themselves first. This is certainly a central preoccupation of this film, and the writers and directors (Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck) cleverly use this structure to educate its audience on who Captain Marvel is, where’s she been and why she will be crucial to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where Captain Marvel, or more accurately Carol Danvers, differs from other characters is that she is as much in the dark about her origins as the audience are. And the central thrust of the plot, eschewing the typical origin story structure, sees her slowly learn who she is and what makes her special. There is a tremendous sequence late in the film as she recalls her earlier life and is encouraged and empowered by the experiences these memories stir within her.
Building on the thematic ideas of learning to forge her own path, and not letting men dictate it for her is also key to the excellent dynamic between her and a younger looking Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson having great fun). As a younger, inexperienced officer, Fury works as a great foil for the driven and single-minded Dancers, and the balance and equality in their relationship is one of the films biggest strengths.
Another MCU thread that is picked up here revolves around the heroic character beginning to question who they can trust, and whether the side they are on is, in fact, the right side. Like Iron Man and Captain America before her, Marvel comes to learn that her team aren’t necessarily the good guys, and its interesting that this film sets this idea up now, as it hints at the direction and role Captain Marvel will come to play in the wider cinematic universe.
If there is a problem in Captain Marvel, it’s the sheer number of ideas and themes threatening to derail the fun and bog the film down in exposition and thematic moralising. Thankfully, Brie Larson’s performance is exceptional, instantly making you feel like she’s been playing this role for years, and holding the film together with honestly, commitment and sheer brio.
Captain Marvel is a low-key effort in many ways, and all the better for it. Yes, the film delivers the pre-requisite big budget action sequence during the films’ climax, but the story is much more interested in story and character, and thanks in large part to Brie Larson’s superb performance the film feels stronger for this focus, even if in doing so it tries to juggle too many plots and ideas.
With Avengers: Endgame on the horizon the risk with Captain Marvel is that it could have served as an expensive two-hour trailer for that film, presuming of course that Marvel will play a major part is resolving the devastating climax on Infinity War. Thankfully, Captain Marvel feels like a much-needed addition to the franchise, and in Brie Larson the MCU has a character who could effortlessly become a central focal point for the franchise’s future.